We talk to Mike Girling, Managing Director of Old Rope Walks Limited and Soo Wilkinson, Creative Director of Igloo Design
If you remember The Roscoe Arms on the corner where Renshaw Street meets Oldham Street, you’ll recall a pretty nondescript pub, which was nothing much more than a ‘nice boozer’ (or so Maz from Peterborough says on TripAdvisor.) After a recent £750k revamp, the place has now emerged from its dusty old cocoon as a trendy new bar and restaurant in the Renaissance quarter of Liverpool. It goes by the name of The Butterfly & The Grasshopper and pays homage to a romantic poem about a moonlight bug’s ball written by 19th Century Liverpool MP and poet, William Roscoe.
We asked ourselves ‘what would William Morris do if he’d had access to a computer?
We talk to Mike Girling, Managing Director of Old Rope Walks Limited - operators of The Butterfly & The Grasshopper - and Soo Wilkinson, Creative Director of Igloo Design about the concepts behind this cool new cocktail bar and restaurant.
What is it that you love so much about the Renaissance part of town?
MG: “I like the way a city breathes over time and different areas come to life. I think Renshaw Street and its surrounding backstreets up to the Philharmonic are a very busy, overlooked thoroughfare which is starting to boom with new residents. I think Renshaw Street itself, up to the Bombed Out Church should be a destination in its own right and it's very important in terms of what visitors to our city first see.”
In a destination which is already booming, how is The Butterfly going to stand out?
MG: “Firstly, it's beautiful and the design work is unique - the attention to detail is second to none. In my opinion it's the most egalitarian of things - a beautiful pub meant for all people. The care and attention to the narrative of Roscoe and his poem is embedded in the design rather than being literally used and is infused in everything from the drinks to the menu.
“The food is going to blow people away too. I can't tell you how delighted we are to have brought Dave Gale on board as Executive Head Chef, it's a real coup for the city not just The Butterfly. We know that even the simple classics will be done to a really high standard.”
How did you go about curating such a high calibre kitchen team?
MG: “David Gale was recommended to me by Soo who had worked with him before. He has serious credentials having opened Soho House in New York and various Schrager Hotels around the world so I knew we’d be in safe hands with him at the helm.
“Bart comes from Malmaison and we were immediately impressed with his keen attitude and ambition. Dave has been singing Bart and Cat’s (our Sous Chef) praises since he got here. There’s a really great synergy between them.”
What’s your personal go-to from the food menu?
MG: “I'm not a vegetarian but the cauliflower cous cous small plate with pomegranate, chilli, lime and mint is incredible!”
High praise from a carnivore for one of the many vegan and vegetarian dishes that embellish a menu which takes influence from Earth, Land, Sea and er… small plates. From steaks to mussels and roast butternut squash to a garlic toast so pungent it’d make your eyes water, there’s something for every palate.
What about Roscoe – what do you think he would be ordering?
MG: “Bill, as I like to call him, would go for the grilled cauliflower steak with caper, raisin and parsley relish and a side of Parmesan and truffle glazed parsnips, washed down with a Grasshopper.”
The Grasshopper is every bit as delicious as a foamy muddle of creme de menthe and white chocolate liqueur sounds and joins an eclectic list of classic and contemporary cocktails which have been curated by The Butterfly bar managers to provide a collection of unique, biophilic nectars. The drinks menu also offers a selection of local beers and gins, including the Liverpool-distilled Mother gin.
Plans for the future?
MG: “Our Creative Director and Designer, Soo has some immersive activations planned. She's been busy creating some surprises that we will evolve over the seasons for particular one-off events.”
The Butterfly is one of those multi-sensory experiences that delivers on the vibe and venue as much as what goes in your mush.
Soo, tell us more about the concept and creative process behind the look and feel of the space…
SW: “I took my cue from Mike’s brief, which was to create a modern take on Victoriana and of course [Roscoe’s] poem which has given the venue it’s unique narrative. The downstairs is more ‘Grasshopper’, where we’ve used darker colours on the walls in a nod to the Victorian era. The upstairs is more ‘Butterfly', where we’ve used lighter colours and . We’ve also installed a fire pit up there to create some cosy winter ambience and in the summer the skylights in the ceiling can be opened to let the sunbeams in.”
We’ve heard that the furniture is definitely not your bog-standard flatpack…
SW: (Laughs, thankfully) “The furniture is definitely not Ikea! We’ve combined classic Thonet chairs designed in the 1800’s with contemporary pieces by Hay and GTV and the Peacock chairs in the roof garden which are by Patricia Urquiola.”
You have certainly mastered the art of marrying old and new…
SW: “We’ve kept the original fireplaces where possible and exposed the original roof in the garden room, which has now been dressed with plants and huge suspended light globes. We’ve also installed a series of surrealist Neo Victoriana art on the walls by British artist, Dan Hillier because we wanted to bring some arts and crafts into the design without being retro or pastiche. So, we asked ourselves ‘what would William Morris do if he’d had access to a computer?’ and this was the result. We’ve also designed a digital wallpaper of trees to create the illusion of being outdoors.”
Do each of the floors have it’s own separate identity then?
SW: There is a consistency of style throughout so there will be cohesion to how people experience the two spaces during one evening. But people might come here on two separate occasions and have a completely different experience - just having drinks in one of the bars or dining in one of the restaurant spaces. You get two venues for one!
Now all that’s left to do is discover it for yourselves,because the proof is in the pudding - and believe us when we say that the sticky toffee pudding with pecan caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream is a real dream.
The Butterfly & The Grasshopper, 1 Oldham Street, L1 2SU